Council agenda includes commercial district beautification, property maintenance program, climate action plan, 2024-25 budget

By SARA HALL

The agenda for next week’s Laguna Beach City Council meeting has a variety of notable items up for discussion.

At the Tuesday (June 25) meeting, council will consider: Proposed commercial district beautification/property maintenance program; draft climate action and adaptation plan; fiscal year 2024-25 budget; initial consideration of the donation of real property in Rim Rock Canyon, and procedures for taking and storing minutes pertaining to closed session.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider a commercial district beautification/property maintenance program

During regular business, council will hear a presentation of the proposed commercial district beautification/property maintenance program and ordinance and provide direction to staff.

The goal of the program is to promote and incentivize commercial property maintenance throughout the city.

At the annual planning workshop on January 19, council directed staff to develop a commercial district and property maintenance program, including a related ordinance.

The ordinance would amend city code to further define conditions of a property that constitute a nuisance to ensure that commercial properties are maintained in good condition, promoting a safe, clean and attractive community, and also make such conditions and violations subject to administrative citations to provide the city with additional enforcement tools. The proposed program would provide resources to support commercial property owners and tenants in understanding and fulfilling their maintenance responsibilities and may provide incentives, depending on the direction of council.

Many buildings in the city’s commercial districts require maintenance and care, and some are more than 50 years old. Common maintenance issues include deteriorated paint, windows, landscaping, awnings and signage.

Currently, city code identifies certain structures as nuisances depending on specific conditions, including decay, peeling, warping, overgrown vegetation, dead trees, accumulation of trash (bottles, cans, boxes, etc.) and deteriorated parking lots.

The proposed ordinance includes new provisions to ensure:

Roofs, windows, and doors are free from deteriorated paint, stain, varnish and weatherproofing.

–Areas visible from the street are not used for storage of personal or movable property.

–Walkways, sidewalks, delivery areas, and other paved surfaces are free from potholes and cracks or inadequate, noncompliant, or broken security lighting.

–Advertising signs, advertising materials, such as banners and posters, and awnings are free from tears, cracks, warp, and excessive fade, dirt and dust, and do not obstruct visibility.

–Ensure any violation of the city code is deemed a nuisance.

–The program also proposes the city provide support and incentives, including a recognition and award program, and financial incentives.

If adopted, staff proposes the city conduct an education campaign to inform businesses about the new ordinance and program before implementing code enforcement. According to the staff report, approximately 25 to 30 properties located in Downtown and along Coast Highway will be addressed first.

Also during regular business at Tuesday’s meeting, council will review the draft climate action and adaptation plan reduction strategies.

According to the staff report, the CAAP is a “comprehensive strategy designed to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change while preparing the community for its inevitable effects.” The plan includes an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, setting measurable targets for reducing these emissions, and outlining specific actions to achieve these goals.

It also focuses on enhancing the city’s resilience to climate-related hazards like extreme weather events, wildfire, sea level rise and temperature fluctuations.

The final plant encompasses a wide range of initiatives, from improving energy efficiency and promoting renewable energy to enhancing green infrastructure and public transportation.

The first phase of the CAAP, which covered analysis and understanding, has been completed.

The city’s consultant on the project, PlaceWorks, is in the initial stages of the second phase, which covers strategy development. This step includes a draft list of proposed actions to reduce emissions and enhance resilience to climate related hazards in the community. Staff is looking to the council for input on the list, which will mark the beginning of the public review process (which also includes public workshops, meetings with relevant city committees and targeted stakeholder meetings).

CAAP development (Phase 3) is set to start in August and adoption of the plan will likely be in January 2025.

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The last item during regular business on Tuesday, is the fiscal year 2024-25 budget. The action also includes other items for consideration: Memorandum of understanding between the city and the Police and Fire Management Association Police Unit; proposed increase to the community development appeal fee and revisions to the 2023-24 adopted budget. Other follow-up items include the salary for the city clerk and city treasurer, approving the community assistance grants and adopting the city’s Gann limit (cap for spending growth) for next year.

The proposed item comes after a budget workshop on May 14, which included public comments and council feedback.

During the budget workshop, the council discussed several budget changes, including approving the Housing and Human Services’ request for $20,000 for public outreach on housing programs and funding $500,000 for microgrid resilience to complement efforts to secure additional funding from the county. The council also considered funding a mobile generator for the Emergency Operations Center at the Community and Recreation Center and restoring the 1931 Seagrave fire truck with a contribution of up to $150,000, matching dollar-for-dollar funds raised through public contributions. Council also recommended including the Chamber of Commerce’s request for $25,000, matching their contribution to create a Retail Market Evaluation.

Councilmembers also discussed setting aside funding for a new community pool and highlighted the need for a five-year strategic financial plan to better understand long-term financial commitments. The council requested staff to implement full cost recovery for appeals in the community development department, evaluate the need for a cybersecurity position, and conduct an organizational assessment and implementation plan for document management.

Earlier in the meeting, on the consent calendar (usually passed without discussion, unless an item is pulled by a councilmember or member of the public), council will consider a real property donation.

The owner of an open space located in Rim Rock Canyon contacted city staff to express a desire to donate the property to the city. No address is listed in the staff report, although an attached parcel map shows the site near the area of 1413 Cerritos Drive in the Temple Hills neighborhood.

Tuesday’s item includes directing staff to obtain due diligence documents, including a Phase 1 environmental report, geological site hazard assessment report, preliminary title report, and any other reports that may be required to determine liability should the city accept the donation. These reports should not cost more than $10,000 and will help determine if the property has underlying issues that might dissuade the city from acquiring it.

Staff is also recommending council remand acquisition of the property to the Planning Commission for the purpose of determining if it’s consistent with the city’s General Plan.

If directed to proceed and no underlying issues are found and the Planning Commission finds the acquisition consistent with the general plan, staff will return to council seeking formal approval to accept the donation.

Also on the consent calendar, council will consider procedures for taking and storing minutes pertaining to closed session meetings of the City Council.

According to the staff report, the Brown Act permits, but does not require, a legislative body to keep closed session minutes. The Brown Act also allows a council to adopt policies or procedures for the taking and storing of closed session minutes. Such a policy designates the person, as well as an alternate, responsible for those minutes. The policy can further prescribe the type of minutes to be taken, how such minutes should be stored, and clarifies that such minutes shall be treated as confidential information.

Staff known in a report that the benefits of this type of policy include allowing a councilmember who is absent (but not recused or having a conflict of interest) from the closed session item or meeting to apprise themselves of what was decided by the council and to establish a contemporaneous record of council action.

The regular meeting starts at 5 p.m. The agenda is available online here.

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers.

The meeting can be watched live on Cox Channel 852 or on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/agendas or on YouTube.

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, Calif. 92651, by email to amckay@lagunabeachcity.net, or by using this interactive form. In order to allow sufficient time for members of the City Council and staff to review and consider your written comments, submissions will be accepted for consideration up until the close of business (i.e., 5:30 p.m.) on June 24 (the day before the City Council meeting).

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.


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